Rhum, an Old Port bar that has been serving tiki drinks since 2016, held a closing party Saturday night before permanently sailing into the sunset.

The bar was located in a subterranean space on Cross Street and was known for its well-crafted, not-too-sweet versions of classic tiki drinks such as the Mai Tai and Singapore Sling. A pirate’s skull-and-crossbones was laid in tile at the entrance, a nod to Portland’s rum-running history.

Rhum was a project of the Fifth Food Group, a restaurant group that includes local restaurateurs Jason Loring and Mike Fraser and local builder and designer Nat Towl. During the past year, the bar added entertainment options such as Tarot Thursday, which offered a free tarot reading with any food or drink purchase, and twice-a-month Drag Queen Bingo.

Loring and Fraser said Tuesday that while the bar had opened in February 2016 to great interest and overflowing crowds – customers initially had to be turned away because of the fire code – it has been struggling ever since, losing money every month. “If this business were able to break even, we would keep it open,” Fraser said.

Loring bristled at the suggestion that he lost customers because drink prices were too high, noting that there were plenty of other Old Port bars with similar pricing. He did note that management had tinkered with the food a couple of times, after starting off with a menu that was heavy on costly, high-end, fresh seafood.

Ultimately, Loring said, he and Fraser have been “humbled” by the closure. “If I knew what the problem was, I would have fixed it,” Loring said. “It’s definitely not one thing. It’s a combination of things.”

A lesser factor was theft: Rhum’s quirky, custom-made tiki mugs disappeared with regularity. “We’ve lost about $10,000 in mugs from people stealing,” Loring said.

Loring and Fraser still owe vendors money, but said they are working to set up payment schedules. He declined to specify the number of vendors or amount of debt.

“We do take full responsibility for every cent that we owe people,” Loring said, “and we’re going to make all of it right.”

The pair are hoping their newest venture will fare much better. In November, the Fifth Food Group opened Hunker Down, a comfort food restaurant at the base of the Sugarloaf ski resort in Carrabassett Valley.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

[email protected]

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